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Who? What? When? Where? Why? Questions to Ask BEFORE Asking “How” to Live Your Life

Who? What? When? Where? Why? Questions to Ask BEFORE Asking “How” to Live Your Life

Do you want only simple, specific tips, or something wider and deeper?
Worried little girl

    It’s a very old journalistic cliché that stories should always contain answers to these six questions: What? Who? Where? When? How? Why? For example, a story about a murder could accomplish all of this in a single sentence: “Jones was murdered in his own home last evening by a neighbor using a shotgun in revenge for Jones’ insults to the neighbor’s wife.”

    It seems to me that more and more articles on the web are leaving aside this pattern to move to the “x simple tips on how to do y” format. There’s nothing wrong with such an approach — indeed, it’s clearly popular — but it implies that you already know the answers to the other five questions. Only the “how?” item remains, since that is all such articles address.

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    In my own experience, this is rarely the case. Most often, people do not know the answers to the other questions. They are either ignored or blithely assumed to be obvious.

    Questions for a New Year
    With a New Year upon us, you may be thinking about resolutions. Will it be enough to address only the “how?” issues? I think that one of the reasons why so many resolutions fail to last beyond January is that they assume you have indeed answered all the other questions, when the reality is that none of them have been tackled.

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    My suggestion is this: that you make sure you ask yourself allthe other questions, deliberately and carefully, before even considering the “how” of anything, whether the ways be simple or not. Try this sequence:

    • What are the issues facing you in your life? Have you thought about them carefully enough to put them into some order of priority, assuming that tackling them all at once is likely to be more than you can handle? Are you clear about exactly what they are? Do you understand them as fully as possible?
    • Why does it matter that you should deal with any of them? Is there something you wish to achieve; or something you think you need to change? What is your purpose in taking action? Are you sure that it is a purpose you truly believe in and can stick with long enough?
    • When should you start? Is now the right time? Are circumstances favorable enough? Would it be better to wait and see how events turn out? Are you in danger of rushing into short-term action when a long-term approach is needed?
    • Where should you begin? Which aspect of the problem or change should be tackled first? Is it the most important or the most pressing, since these typically refer to two aspects of any problem, not one?
    • Whodo you need on your side? Who has to help you — or at least stand aside — if you are going to succeed? Few matters of any real importance can be dealt with without assistance from others.. . . and, finally . . .
    • How should you do it? What is the best approach? What skills or techniques will you need? What can you learn from others’ experiences to assist you?

    Dealing with specifics

    As journalists have found for hundreds of years, all six questions are essential. Missing any of them leaves a gap that must be filled by assumptions or imagination. Just so, relying entirely on “x simple tips on how to do y” is likely to leave you guessing on such key questions as whether it’s worth doing anyway, or worth doing right now.

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    Best of all, the six questions can be adapted easily to cover almost any situation. Considering a change of job or career? Try this sequence:

    • What would suit you better than what you have now?
    • Why do you want to change? Is it a good enough reason?
    • When is the best time to make a move? Should you wait to seek how things turn out in a few months? Is this the right time for your long-term career hopes to make a move?
    • Where might offer you a better position? Another company? Another location? Another type of work altogether?
    • Who else do you need to consider? Partner? Family? Friends? Colleagues? Who might be able to help you or put in a good word with a prospective employer?
    • How should you go about it, taking into account the answers to all the previous questions?

    If you think through the sequence carefully, you’ll not only make a better career moves, you will have already prepared the answers to maybe 90% of interview questions.

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    Avoiding sound-bites and clichés

    Don’t be seduced by attractive sound-bites or simple-sounding, ready-made answers, when what you need are time to consider your situation fully and thoughtful questions to help you do so.

    Don’t jump to trying the “x simple ways” before you have spent sufficient time on deciding what you need to accomplish and why it matters.

    There will be opportunity enough to work on the (purely tactical) “how?” after you have first dealt with the (strategic) issues the other five questions will raise for you. Time spent in reconnaissance, as the saying goes, is never wasted — especially if you want to come out on the winning side.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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